The adage “the customer is king” holds true for all businesses, irrespective of their size and the industry they belong to. However, many companies make the mistake of being excessively transactional. They sell their product or service to a customer and then move on to the next one.
In doing so, they merely meet the bottom line — selling the item — and overlook the bigger picture, ensuring customer retention.
To make matters worse, some businesses try to upsell the product or service to the same customer without finding out if the initial purchase satisfied that customer. This transactional mindset often costs a business potentially valuable customers.
On the other hand, businesses that focus on customer advocacy tend to hold up well. But what exactly is customer advocacy? How can you turn someone into a customer advocate, and what role does customer service play in this?
We take a look at all these topics in the guide below.
Customer advocacy refers to the state in which a business’s product or customer service satisfies the customer so much that they’re willing to recommend the business to their friends and family. The term is often used interchangeably with “customer evangelism” and “word-of-mouth marketing.”
And while this is a fantastic and cost-effective way to grow new business, at Parlor we take advocacy one step further. Not only should advocates refer other potential clients to you, they also should be so loyal that they’ll bring you along to any new company they join in the future.
The ultimate goal is to become so ingrained in a user’s workflow that they can’t imagine work without your product, so anywhere they go, they’ll bring you with them. It’s central to our idea of User Lifetime Value (uLTV), wherein the lifetime of a user doesn’t rely on the account, but continues for as long as they’re in the workforce.
Customer advocacy can be a powerful tool for businesses, as it often leads to repeat buyers ( customer stickiness) who spend more money than they would normally.
A business can use brand advocates or customer advocates to attract more buyers and offer them a seamless experience. The aim is to ensure that these customers have a positive sentiment about a product or service to such an extent that they are willing to tell others about it and bring you along wherever they end up.
A good customer advocate is someone who talks about your product or service to other potential customers. More importantly, these people are in close touch with your target audience because they’re part of that crowd.
Thus, they’re likely to get your message across to the right people.
Although general customer advocates can be common, they still need a good reason to become loyal to you and make the effort of remaining evangelists for your business.
One main reason this happens is when someone has an extraordinarily positive experience with your company. For example, you may have provided someone with an impeccable customer support experience.
Hiring a customer advocacy expert can be a great way to curate a customer advocacy program that helps increase customer retention and encourages customers to become advocates.
Customer Success Managers (CSMs) deem brand advocacy to be of the utmost importance due to its ability to directly impact customer retention rates, increase customer lifetime value (CLV), and positively affect the bottom line.
In essence, a customer advocacy program is a strategy that CSM teams use to encourage a brand’s most satisfied customers to proactively recommend their services to other potential buyers. Because three-fourths of B2B buyers consult three (and often more) advocate sources before a purchase, it’s understandable why customer advocacy is so important to CSMs.
Customer advocates willingly share their experiences with everyone. With the advent of social media, the impact of customer testimonials and reviews has increased substantially, especially in relationship and advocacy marketing. More importantly, advocates for a business are highly instrumental in creating more advocates because they epitomize customer loyalty.
The customer experience is one of the most critical factors in determining whether a customer becomes an advocate or not. Creating an exceptional customer experience is key to turning customers into advocates. CSMs need to focus on identifying where, when, and how advocates are created throughout the customer journey. Plus, they must identify the activities that most successful customer advocates engage in. These insights will help them develop best practices to improve their program. For instance, knowing the trigger event for an existing customer is vital before you craft your client advocacy campaign.
A successful customer retention strategy involves different tactics to keep customers satisfied and reduce churn. For a customer retention strategy to work, it’s essential to understand the various drivers of customer loyalty and high customer retention rates. Once you know which factors influence brand loyalty, you can design specific retention tactics that address these drivers.
Customer loyalty drivers have three main types: emotional, functional, and social.
A CSM has to take all of these drivers into account to ensure customer acquisition, satisfaction, and — finally — retention.
Businesses must focus on creating and effectively implementing a customer retention strategy because it’s cheaper and easier to keep an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one. Plus, something their friends and family say about a business is more likely to convince a potential customer than something a business says about itself.
Much of a company’s retention success is based on the right timing. It’s important to understand the different stages of the customer journey to identify when it’s the right time to act. You have to monitor customer experience metrics at each stage and determine when it makes the most sense to present the customer with an offer that keeps them engaged in your product or brings them back for another purchase.
The first stage is when a person is aware of your brand but isn’t ready to buy yet. The second stage is when they are interested in buying. They’re prepared to purchase at the third stage, and the fourth stage is after the purchase.
Businesses can use the following customer retention strategies to turn their customers into advocates at different steps of their journey.
Although monetary incentives often encourage customers to speak highly of a business, they aren’t the most effective strategy. Instead, you could focus on creating an outstanding customer experience that ensures your customers are eager to recommend you to others even without any monetary incentives.
Alternatively, you can play on the social and emotional aspects of your customer’s buying journey. Coca-Cola is an excellent example as the company has become somewhat synonymous with large-scale events such as the NFL’s Super Bowl and FIFA’s World Cup. Although the company produces beverages, it has marketed itself in a way that provides a delightful customer experience even beyond the point of sale.
If you’re not ready to spend excessively on customer advocacy, look for ways to evoke positive feelings in your target audience through value propositions, new experiences, and your brand voice.
Social proof is a psychological phenomenon that arises when the actions of others influence people to do something, such as making a purchase. It’s a powerful tool that businesses can use to influence customers to become advocates.
There are different ways businesses can use social proof, but testimonials tend to be the most effective. Testimonials are quotes or videos of customers talking about their positive experience with your product or service. You can add testimonials to different touchpoints, such as your website, your social media pages, and emails that you send out to customers and potential buyers.
An effective way to use the social proof phenomenon is by including customer logos on your website. The logos of “happy” customers reinforce the positive sentiment a customer may feel after a purchase.
Including social proof on your website is an easy way to show visitors that other people have had a good experience with your product or service, and they can expect the same.
A referral program is a great way to encourage customers to refer their friends and family members to your business. Offering incentives such as discounts or gift cards is a great way to get customers to refer others. You can also create a social media campaign that asks customers to refer their friends for a chance to win a prize.
Referral programs are a useful way to get customers to become advocates because they’re more likely to refer people who have the same interests as them. It increases the chances that the referred people will also become loyal customers.
For instance, Airbnb has a referral rewards program in which customers get a certain amount off their qualifying stay when they recommend the app to someone.
The result? Airbnb bookings [increased by 25%]. But Airbnb is not the only company running a successful referral program. Other notable names include Evernote, Tesa, Koodo Mobile, T-Mobile, and Harry’s.
Mission-driven companies are always likely to attract customer advocates because their customers naturally feel compelled to share their positive experience with others. As a result, mission-driven businesses often have happy and loyal customers who contribute to the company’s success by becoming advocates.
As one successful example, TOMS Shoes has helped improve more than 100 million lives through customer advocacy since it first started its “One for One” program.
The program sees that for every pair of shoes TOMS sells, the company gives one to a child in need. Thus, customers feel great after making a purchase, and they share this feeling with others who also want to make a difference while helping people in need.
Customers feel detached from a brand when they feel like they’re just one of many. Businesses need to use personalization to ensure customer engagement on a more individual level. Personalized experiences make customers feel special and appreciated, encouraging them to become advocates for your brand.
Tesco UK is an excellent example of a company that uses personalization to retain customers and turn them into brand advocates. The company uses Twitter to do this.
From helping customers choose the right meal bundles to resolving questions about using the app, Tesco’s Twitter account ensures customers are heard and helped.
To create an approach like this, you must identify your target customers and determine where you’re likely to find them. Are they more active on Instagram, or can you reach more of them through email?
Once you’ve identified the source of communication, you can encourage customers to contact you through the channel. Make sure they know that they can contact you at any step of their purchasing journey — even afterward.
Most importantly, your message should have a human touch. No one likes canned and robotic responses. How you respond to your customers should make them feel like they’re talking to a human on the other side of the screen.
Every business loves happy customers. But it’s important to build a relationship with your customers to allow advocacy to grow.
Parative's Customer Behavior Platform helps you proactively engage with the right user, with the right message, at the right time by leveraging powerful customer segments and signals.
Customer advocates can have a massive impact on growing your business. But it’s important to remember that creating a lasting relationship requires consistent care and support from your team. Understand the different stages of the customer journey and personalize customer experiences to help turn your customers into brand advocates.
This post was originally posted on the parlor.io blog. It was rewritten and moved to the Parative blog after the company rebranded in 2022.